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Rosetta’s comet 67P is much younger than previously thought

14 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Based on computer simulations, astrophysicists at the University of Bern conclude that comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko did not obtain its duck-like form during the formation of our solar system 4.5 billion years ago. Although it does contain primordial material, they are able to show that the comet in its present form is hardly more than a billion years old.

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Astronomers predict possible birthplace of Rosetta-probed comet 67P

18 October 2016 Astronomy Now

Canadian researchers have charted a path that most likely pinpoints the very origins of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the comet studied intensively by ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft. Western University astronomers believe that 67P is made from primordial material and relatively new to the inner parts of our solar system, having only arrived about 10,000 years ago.

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European Rosetta spacecraft poised for comet crash landing

29 September 2016 William Harwood

The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft closed in Thursday for a deliberate crash landing on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Friday, a slow-motion kamikaze plunge to bring the enormously successful mission to an end after more than two years of unprecedented close-range observations.

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How comets break up and make up

2 June 2016 Astronomy Now

For some comets, breaking up is not that hard to do. A new study indicates that the bodies of some periodic comets — objects that orbit the Sun in less than 200 years — may regularly split in two, then reunite down the road. This may be a repeating process fundamental to comet evolution.

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No large caverns found inside Comet 67P

4 February 2016 Astronomy Now

Comets are known to be a mixture of dust and ice, and if fully compact, they would be heavier than water. However, measurements have shown some of them to have densities much lower than that of water ice, implying that comets must be highly porous. A new study of low-density Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko using data from ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft rules out a cavernous interior.

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Rosetta’s first peek at comet 67P’s dark side

4 October 2015 Astronomy Now

Since its arrival at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in August 2014, ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft has been surveying the surface and the environment of this curiously shaped body. Now that the comet is experiencing a brief, hot southern hemisphere summer, its south polar regions have emerged from almost five years of total darkness and it has been possible to observe them with other Rosetta instruments.

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Comet impacts may have led to life on Earth — and perhaps elsewhere

19 August 2015 Astronomy Now

Comet impacts on Earth are synonymous with great extinctions, but now research presented at the Goldschmidt geochemistry conference in Prague shows that early comet collisions would have become a driving force to cause substantial synthesis of peptides — the first building blocks of life. This may have implications for the genesis of life on other worlds.

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Rosetta studies Comet 67P at perihelion

14 August 2015 Astronomy Now

ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft has witnessed 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko make its closest approach to the Sun (perihelion) at 3:03am BST on 13 August, when the comet came within 116 million miles of our nearest star. Rosetta’s measurements suggest the comet is currently spewing up to 300kg of water vapour and a metric tonne of dust every second, creating dangerous working conditions for the spacecraft.